Swammerdam , Jan

Swammerdam , Jan
(1637–1680) Dutch naturalist and microscopist
Swammerdam, an Amsterdam apothecary's son, studied medicine at Leiden University, graduating in 1667. However he never practiced and instead devoted his life to microscopical studies of a widely varying nature. His most important work, namely the discovery and description of red blood corpuscles in 1658, was completed before he went to university. He later demonstrated experimentally that muscular contraction involves a change in the shape but not volume of the muscle. He also studied movements of the heart and lungs and discovered the valves in the lymph vessels that are named for him.
Swammerdam is also remembered for his pioneering work on insects. He collected some 3000 different species and illustrated and described the anatomy, reproductive processes, and life histories of many of these. This work, together with his system of insect classification, laid the foundations of modern entomology. Swammerdam's Biblia naturae (Book of Nature), published long after his death (1737–38), still stands as one of the finest one-man collections of microscopical observations.
At the theoretical level Swammerdam developed a new argument in support of the preformationist position, the view that organisms are born already formed. His argument, first presented in hisHistoria insectorum (1669; Account of Insects), was based upon the nature of insect metamorphosis. At first sight it might appear that the metamorphic process supported the alternative view of development, epigenesis, the claim that organisms develop gradually and in sequence. Swammerdam, however, revealed a different picture when, with the aid of a microscope, he succeeded in identifying structures belonging to butterflies in pupae and caterpillars. The caterpillar, Swammerdam insisted, was not changed into a butterfly, rather grew by the expansion of parts already formed. Nor does the tadpole change into a frog; it becomes a frog “by the infolding and increasing of some of its parts.” In proof of his position Swammerdam would display a silkworm to his critics, peel off the outer skin, and display the rudiments of the wings within.
In the same work Swammerdam added one more piece of evidence against the claim that organisms can generate spontaneously. Insects found in plant galls, he pointed out, developed from eggs laid therein by visiting flies.

Scientists. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Swammerdam, Jan — born Feb. 12, 1637, Amsterdam, Neth. died Feb. 15, 1680, Amsterdam Dutch naturalist. An adept microscopist, in 1658 he became the first person to observe and describe red blood cells. In his General History of Insects he accurately described and… …   Universalium

  • SWAMMERDAM, Jan — (1637–1680)    Zoologist. Swammerdam studied medicine in Leiden and then settled as a private scholar in his native city of Amsterdam. He specialized as a zoologist in the field of anatomy and in particular in entomology. His manuscripts were… …   Historical Dictionary of the Netherlands

  • Swammerdam,Jan — Swam·mer·dam (sväʹmər däm ), Jan. 1637 1680. Dutch naturalist known for his pioneering microscopic research. He was the first to describe red blood cells (1658). * * * …   Universalium

  • Swammerdam, Jan — ► (1637 80) Anatomista y naturalista holandés. Fue el primero que describió los glóbulos rojos de la sangre e investigó los vasos linfáticos. * * * (12 feb. 1637, Amsterdam, Países Bajos–15 feb. 1680, Amsterdam). Naturalista holandés. Adepto a la …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • SWAMMERDAM, JAN —    a Dutch entomologist, born at Amsterdam, where he settled as a doctor, but turning with enthusiasm to the study of insect life, made important contributions to, and practically laid the foundations of, entomological science (1637 1680) …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Swammerdam — Swammerdam, Jan …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Jan Swammerdam — (February 12, 1637, Amsterdam February 17, 1680) was a Dutch biologist and microscopist. His work on insects demonstrated that the various phases during the life of an insect egg, larva, pupa, and adult are different forms of the same animal. As… …   Wikipedia

  • Jan Swammerdam — (portrait factice) Naissance 12 février 1637 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • SWAMMERDAM (J.) — SWAMMERDAM JAN (1637 1680) Naturaliste hollandais qui, bien que destiné à l’état religieux par son père, entre en 1663 à l’université de Leyde pour y étudier la médecine sous la direction notamment de Van Horne et de Le Boë. L’année suivante, il… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Jan — /jan/; for 1 also Du., Ger. /yahn/, n. 1. a male given name, form of John. 2. a female given name, form of Janet. * * * (as used in expressions) Brueghel Jan the Elder Jan Amos Komenský Dussek Jan Ladislav Eyck Jan van Gossart Jan Jan Mabuse Jan… …   Universalium

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